The president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was taken back into federal custody yesterday after refusing to comply with the terms of his home confinement. When Cohen, who is preparing to publish a book about Donald Trump, refused to agree to a gag order on media contacts, he was abruptly shackled and returned to jail.
After the New York Post snapped photos of Cohen enjoying a leisurely dinner at a French restaurant this weekend, speculation was rampant that he’d be found in violation of his release. But as it turns out, his al fresco excursion wasn’t the issue.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Cohen and his lawyer Jeffrey Levine showed up at the courthouse to have his ankle bracelet fit and sign papers agreeing to the terms of his release, when Cohen balked at what he regarded as a violation of his First Amendment rights.
The very first clause of his Federal Program Monitoring Program Participation Agreement reads:
No engagement of any kind with the media, including print, tv, film, books, or any other form of media/news. Prohibition from all social media platforms. No posting on social media and a requirement that you communicate with friends and family to exercise discretion in not posting on your behalf or posting any information about you. The purpose is to avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to your status as an inmate serving a custodial term in the community.
It’s unclear whether this is boilerplate language applied to all inmates released on home confinement, or this is a special proviso for former friends of Donald Trump who might say nasty things about him in the press. It certainly doesn’t look like any of the documents available on the Bureau of Prisons website, particularly the Home Confinement and Community Control Agreement and Conditions of Home Detention forms.
Nonetheless, Cohen was required to agree to stay off Twitter and not publish his book if he wanted to stay out of prison. When he balked, officials said they would try to work something out and left Cohen and Levine cooling their heels for 90 minutes. After which federal marshals came in and wordlessly took Cohen back into custody, according to his spokesman Lanny Davis. Cohen protested that he was willing to sign the form, gag order and all, but the officials insisted that it was “out of our hands.”
Which sounds suspiciously like Attorney General Bigfoot stomping all over one of President Trump’s many enemies. Barr admits to interfering in the prosecutions of both Roger Stone and Michael Flynn; he dispatched a crack team of investigators to scour the globe for evidence that actually it was Ukraine not Russia that hacked the 2016 election; he only gave up on trying to LOCK HER UP Hillary Clinton for email murders last October; and he just got caught redhanded trying to ratf*ck the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Southern District of New York.
It seems impossible that the Attorney General could have been so stupid as to use the conditions of home release to attempt to gag Michael Cohen and postpone publication of his book until after the election. On the other hand, we are talking about Bill Barr here, so …
Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Sent Back to Prison (WSJ)
Elizabeth Dye (@5DollarFeminist) lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.